On Thursday (8 November), Preet Kaur Gill MP, Shadow Minister for International Development and local MP for Edgbaston, wrote to Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, calling on the University not to sign a contract to build an expanded Dubai campus with any firm which abuses and under-pays their workers over the treatment and payment of constructions workers, and to provide guarantees that the workers involved in the construction of the new campus will be treated and paid appropriately.
Ms Gill wrote the letter after Birmingham UCU had revealed that the University Council had recently approved plans for the construction of a new purpose built facility by Tecom, a subsidiary company of Dubai Holding LLC, whilst remaining silent on the treatment of the thousands of migrant workers set to be employed on the project.
Ms Gill writes:
“Human Rights Watch and other groups – such as the Times of India and Migrant-Rights.org – have reported the abuse, dangerous conditions, confiscation of passports and the indentured labour commonplace in the Dubai construction industry.
“The situation is obviously incredibly concerning, and I believe it is absolutely essential that the University of Birmingham ensure that the workers constructing the campus expansion are fairly treated, properly paid and not subject to such appalling work practices.”
“I ask that you ensure that the University of Birmingham does not sign any construction contract with a firm which abuses and under-pays their workers. I also ask that the University provide guarantees, both before and during the construction of the expanded campus, that the workers involved in construction are treated and paid appropriately.”
Responding on Twitter, Ms Gill added:
Vice-Chancellor and University remain silent
At the time of publication (10 November), there appears to have been no response to Ms Gill’s letter, either from Professor Sir David Eastwood himself, or the University of Birmingham. Similarly, the University has not responded to Birmingham UCU’s original news story. As more and more people express concerns over the Dubai campus, it will be interesting to see how long the University can maintain its silence.